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December 01, 2013

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The tall, black-robed wizard/scientist entered the chamber.
Others, also cloaked in black circled the giant stone alter.
The tall wizard joined the circle around the alter and the chanting of ancient, demonic words rose from the group.
Some windows broke the monotony of stone high on each wall, but even the starlight seemed unwilling to enter this chamber.
The scientist rose a hand, sparkling with sorcerous energy high as the chanting increased in volume and speed.
Outside, sheet-lightning lit up half the sky and thunder boomed deafening as the tall wizard lowered his hand to the stone.

And as the light faded, a gaunt, misshapen figure now shifted upon the alter.

At my last job I noticed a lot of this type of view of genetic modification.
Someone even mentioned the Seralini study at one point, mentioned it as proof of the evil of genetic modification. I spun around on the woman with eyes ablaze. She wilted somewhat before me then with an extra breathe and a calming of anger I smiled and shot her a wink. "I'll send you a link", I offered.
The Bronze Blog recently gave a post on this subject so I sent her a link to it. Without missing a beat I remembered that Skeptico had also posted about this so I included a link to the previous post on this blog.
I am frustrated with the acceptance of this kind of dodgy test as well. It seems that the best I can do is make information available to those with beliefs that actually have no basis in evidence.
I hope to influence people sometimes and maybe they will learn, as I have, how to assess a scientific test. I'm no scientist, but I've learned to appreciate the method and the vital importance of test design.
Thanks Skeptico.

"Seralini 2012" may be gone, but sadly the damage has already been done, and the retraction will unfortunately fuel the conspiracy theorists.

The biggest downside of the retraction is that people won't get a chance to see how dismal the paper was to begin with. I vividly remember first reading it through—twice—and was incredulous that a known journal would have accepted this kind of propaganda. This paper would have been a great training tool for first-year college undergraduate biology or statistics students.

Personally, I would have preferred that the publisher left the paper up, but just superimposed a big scarlet letter R on each page, so that the shame could persist indefinitely.

Come to think of it, there are a couple of other similar papers that should also be in the hall of shame. Perhaps it's time for someone to gather the top ten GMO "smoking gun" papers in one place, so that they could be debunked together? This would have the added benefit that the common themes of bad experimental design and interpretation could be highlighted. (I'm curious what would be on other people's top-10 lists).

While there will always be activists trying to co-opt the peer-review system to create a veneer of legitimacy, the larger scandal was that the journal agreed to publish to begin with. As far as I know, the editor still has his job.

Like a bad penny:

https://retractionwatch.com/2014/06/24/retracted-seralini-gmo-rat-study-republished/

Yes, and already some of my friends with a liberal slant and little science background are saying "see, I told you so." These are, by the way, the same folks who believe the "global warming is a hoax" crowd are deluded science deniers. What a strange world we live in.

would it be too impudent to ask where all the Monsanto studies are demonstrating the safety of GMO foods across generations, and across natural Eco-systems?

People have a reason to be suspect, unless you think somehow aspartame was legitimately scientifically tested before being approved for the human food chain.

Yes it would be impudent since I have already written on this site about the the 600 studies (and counting) in the GENERA database, that show the safety of GM foods. Or if you prefer, 126 with independent funding (although lack of independent funding doesn’t invalidate a study).


Ask an honest question: if anti-GMO experimenters are so sure of their conclusion, why would they not design a study that was based on sound scientific practices? Why would they not, in a study with 200 rats, have 100 controls and 100 experiment rats: 100 just fed on GMO food and 100 fed on non-GMO? Why do anti-GMO organizations only have discredited rigged studies? Come back when you have an answer to that.

Us scientists had to be led by the nose to see the truth of what you're saying. We had to have a Monsanto executive leave his honored job to sully his hands in academia. He had to come down to Elsevier to take on the thankless task of editor in order to help us poor scientists understand what you so eloquently have stated. We could not have figured it out by ourselves. Peer review needed a helping hand from the corporate world. We must be humble and thankful for our benefactors on high.

Please forgive me for my skepticism of a corporation and their product that makes for them billions of dollars a year, but they do not want it labeled. Curious.

They tell us it is equal to natural plants, yet need congress to pass a law making it illegal for anyone to sue them if anyone is harmed by their equal-to-natural products.

They say GMOs are needed to feed the world, but organic techniques have improved to equal yields of their equal-to-natural products without the detrimental effects of their Roundup products on soil health. And pardon my skepticism of the motives of a corporation which sues farmers for being the victim of wind-blown equal-to-natural DNA.

Does conflict of interest play any part in all of this?

If Monsanto spends 3 months testing their products before sending them off to market, is that sufficient for something as complex as DNA programming by shotgun methods? Or by any method?

I find it ironic that many fans of GMOs like to compare GMO techniques with grafting, animal husbandry and other agricultural methods that have been used for thousands of years. I don't find them similar at all. With the older methods, we let nature decide if the two organisms are compatible. With modern GMO techniques, we don't give nature a chance to decide. We force DNA into another organism and hope there are no bugs in the programming.

As a software engineer and computer scientist, I find this method of programming highly disturbing and the scanty period of study meager in the extreme. I certainly wouldn't expect a software program not to have bugs after such an invasive, shotgun method of program code insertion.

We are just beginning to understand DNA. Rushing to market with products that have not had decades of thorough testing by non-industry scientists is troubling at best.

I remain skeptical of all GMO studies under 10 years long. But I guess that's just me. If GMOs prove to be thoroughly safe, then no harm. But if we find dangerous side effects after several generations, then there will likely be no way of repairing the damage done. Oops!

I'm all for science. But skeptical of the rush, especially when former industry execs are the ones doing the approving, and former industry execs are the editors pulling articles (not just Seralini's) from their journals.

Us scientists had to be led by the nose to see the truth of what you're saying.
Did you miss the part where the paper was withdrawn? Did you miss the criticism of the blatantly flawed methodology? You speak as if objective standards for evaluating a scientific paper can't exist. Scientists aren't god-men, and the people who did this study weren't the only scientists on Earth. Other scientists criticized it for the same reasons.
We had to have a Monsanto executive leave his honored job to sully his hands in academia.
I think this sentence says more about you than it does about GMOs. I could ramble about Big Organic and their political lobbying, but that wouldn't accomplish anything.
I find it ironic that many fans of GMOs like to compare GMO techniques with grafting, animal husbandry and other agricultural methods that have been used for thousands of years. I don't find them similar at all. With the older methods, we let nature decide if the two organisms are compatible. With modern GMO techniques, we don't give nature a chance to decide. We force DNA into another organism and hope there are no bugs in the programming.
You realize science knows a thing or two about how genes work, right? You also realize that being a viable plant and causing problems for humans who eat it are two entirely two different things, right? You do realize that genes are what they are, regardless of what source they came from, right?

Also, GMOs are tested more extensively than regular crops because of people like you. If there's a problem, it will have a paper trail. Conventional methods are just as likely to produce similar hypothetical problems, but the offending crops won't be so easily traced and recalled.

Just so you know, I'm more likely to advocate that "organic" crops be tested to the same degree than reduce the testing of GMOs.

And pardon my skepticism of the motives of a corporation which sues farmers for being the victim of wind-blown equal-to-natural DNA.
Last I checked, that was, and still is, an urban legend. Care to cite a specific case?
They tell us it is equal to natural plants, yet need congress to pass a law making it illegal for anyone to sue them if anyone is harmed by their equal-to-natural products.
1. We're talking about freak plants produced by intensive eugenics and crossbreeding by humans over thousands of years and likely mutation by irradiation for decades, not natural plants. Crops are intrinsically unnatural.

2. Citation needed. Even if it's true, how's that any different than what organic farmers are lobbying for?

3. Isn't the point of science to filter out political bias so we can follow objective evidence?

They say GMOs are needed to feed the world, but organic techniques have improved to equal yields of their equal-to-natural products without the detrimental effects of their Roundup products on soil health.
Citation needed, and make sure you're measuring in terms of what the GMOs being studied were designed for.

I'd also like to see evidence that "organic" pesticides aren't worse.

I remain skeptical of all GMO studies under 10 years long. But I guess that's just me. If GMOs prove to be thoroughly safe, then no harm. But if we find dangerous side effects after several generations, then there will likely be no way of repairing the damage done. Oops!
My problem: If you're that worried, what's stopping you from being a radical clone monoculture advocate? If anything, I'd think conventional breeding would be more likely to produce those problems because nature isn't sterile or servile to humanity.

Rod Martin Jr

I don’t ever remember seeing quite so many misleading / outright false anti-GMO talking points all in one comment, and that’s saying something. It would take several posts to properly deconstruct your nonsense arguments and it’s just not worth my time. But briefly, here are some actual facts to refute your hatchet job of a comment:

  1. It was not a Monsanto executive who exposed the study as a fraud, it was just about every independent scientist who read that rigged study. There was a list of some of them on my original post. How did you miss that?
  2. There is no scientific reason to label GMOs. However, the billion dollar a year organic industry does want them labeled because they think it will increase their market share. (Conflict of interest you say? There’s one.)
  3. It is not “illegal for anyone to sue” if you are harmed by GMOs. It’s just that no one has been harmed.
  4. No one says “GMOs are needed to feed the world,” it’s just a straw man that anti-GMO activists love to debunk. (Here’s an exercise: Google “GMOs are needed to feed the world.” Go on, try it. You won’t find any pro GMO person saying it, but you will find pages and pages of anti-GMO people debunking it. Debunking an argument no one makes: that’s the definition of a straw man argument.)
  5. Organic is nowhere close to conventional yields. They actually range from 60% to 95% of conventional, depending on the crop.
  6. Roundup is actually more benign than most pesticides approved for organic farming, plus it degrades more rapidly. In addition, use of Roundup ready has increased no-till farming which actually improves soil health
  7. Monsanto has never sued farmers for having Monsanto seed blown onto a farmer’s land. They have sued when a farmer sprays such land with Roundup to isolate the Roundup ready plants, and then saves the Roundup ready seeds and then plants those seeds the next year.
  8. There have been thousands of tests, many longer than 3 months. GMOs have been sold and eaten for two decades now without any ill effects. This is probably why every major international science body in the world (including The US National Academy of Sciences, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, The American Medical Association, The European Commission and the Royal Society of Medicine) has concluded that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods
  9. Mutation breeding does not “let nature decide” anything. These older methods of breeding and mutation are the real shotgun techniques, much less specific and prone to error than modern bio-engineering and yet they were never tested
  10. I understand that a software engineer such as yourself is inclined to see everything as a program that can have “bugs” but that is nothing like bio-engineering.

That’s it, I’m finished. I am now going to start following my own advice and recognize that there is no point debating anti-GMO people such as Rod Martin Jr. As usual, he merely parrots a list of anti-GMO talking points he has read and uncritically accepted. He lost the argument by defending Seralini and he is done. It’s been a year and nine months since my original post and not one anti-GMO person has done anything but parrot similar long debunked drivel, and there is no point in reading any more of the same. I am closing this post to comments.

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